Even though we live in Southern California, we don’t have annual passes to Disneyland. I’ve never been a huge amusement park fan, and Stewart is not fond of crowds. The first time I took him to New York City he made a disgusted noise and said “This place is one giant Costco!” Reading between the lines, you can assume he’s not fond of Costco, either.
Because of this, we rarely take our children to amusement parks, and therefore those days have been like holidays for us. Now through January 6, 2013 at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, the parks are decorated for the winter holidays of Christmas and Hanukah, and the whole holiday experience is heightened to the max. So when we visited Disneyland and California Adventure for the first time in 2 years, it was like a kickoff to the holiday season in mid-November.
The first attraction we hit was Cars Land, because that didn’t exist the last time we visited. Brady and Kyle have seen both Cars movies, and they enjoyed seeing the characters and landscape they know recreated in real life.
Waiting in line for Radiator Springs Racers. Someone is really excited.
The ride is basically a racetrack. You and three other people race against another car on a set track, and it’s more fun than a roller coaster. Kyle, who hates roller coasters, didn’t think so at all, but Brady thought it was “awesome.”
Brady said “It’s not even near Christmas! Why is there a Christmas tree?” I explained that some people love Christmas so much they like to get into the spirit very early. I appreciated that the Christmas trees in Cars Land are decorated with hub caps and other automotive ornaments.
The pill-bug-themed bumper cars in a bug’s land were much more Kyle’s speed.
It didn’t matter that it was a chilly day in November that threatened rain. Where there is a water feature, my kids will play in it. A bug’s land is home to the largest holiday decorations in the park (pictured at top).
This is the tree adorning the new Carthay Circle near the entrance to California Adventure. Roving bands of singers and dancers would stop as we were walking and perform what seemed like impromptu little shows. Brady was very taken by them.
Same thing happened in Disneyland, and we had to stop to appreciate the barbershop quartet’s version of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” on Main Street.
Once inside Disneyland we had to go on Buzz Lightyear’s ride in Tomorrowland. It’s our children’s favorite ride. I will confess, it’s mine too. It’s fun to shoot Zurg! Then we had an appointment to view the Christmas Fantasy parade* from a promenade outside the ride “It’s a Small World.” Kyle met up with a few friends and sat on a wall to watch, while Brady got the best vantage point he could find and stood there transfixed from the very first float to the very last. Every time one passed by, he turned to look toward the origin of the parade and his face lit up as he discovered “There’s more!” It was a procession of princesses and princes and favorite Disney characters dressed in their holiday finest and dancers careening about on roller skates dresses as snowflakes or reindeer and he loved the whole thing.
As Disney veterans know, it’s very difficult to visit every area of the park in just one day, and that’s all we had, so we made a point to try things we haven’t seen before, like the Pirates of the Caribbean ride which is nice for parents because we can sit in a boat and float along. For Kyle, who hates anything resembling a hill of any sort, it was a mixed bag. He enjoyed the pirate scenes inside the ride, but didn’t like the very minor waterfall that the boat had to go down to get there. We also took advantage of the Disneyland Railroad, which takes you around the perimeter of the park, and can be a great way to get from one end to the other without weaving a family of four through the crowds.
We were hosted by Disneyland Parks for this adventure, so we had the added perk of a place to stay on the premises – The Grand Californian hotel has an entrance right from California Adventure. After dark, Brady and I ventured out on our own, leaving the tuckered-out Stewart and Kyle behind in the hotel room. I have to admit, it was much easier for me and Brady to navigate the parks that way, because we are both quick. In fact, Brady is so quick at amusement parks that the idea of visiting one with him gives me heartburn days in advance. But with just him to watch, I had a much better time. From 8:45 to 10:30PM, we did the following:
-Caught the tail end of Disneyland’s famous fireworks show, but missed the wonderful snowfall at the end. This happens every night at the park at 8:45PM during the holiday season.
-Took the Disneyland Railroad to New Orleans and visited the Haunted Mansion, which is transformed into a Nightmare Before Christmas wonderland for the season.
-Watch the amazing Fantasmic show from the edge of New Orleans Square. Brady saw the lights and music as soon as we exited the Haunted Mansion, and he made a beeline for the water’s edge. Fortunately, he got a great unobstructed spot. Unfortunately, it was in the smoking area. I didn’t even realize Disneyland still had smoking areas. But fortunately the show was mesmerizing and finished up with a live-action Captain Hook vs. Peter Pan duel.
-Brady shot a rifle at a shooting range in Frontierland. He loved it, but I quickly ran out of quarters.
-Took pictures in the main square
-Rode the rockets at Tomorrowland
-Rode the monorail back to Downtown Disney, and walked back up to our hotel room.
After I had tucked him into bed where he quickly joined his sleeping brother and father, I got myself one of these and relaxed in a Mission-style rocking chair by the fire in the lobby:
Ultimate Long Island Iced Tea
Disneyland Resort has a lot of special holiday features that we didn’t even see, including a crafting area for kids, photo opportunities with favorite characters and Santa and Mrs. Claus, and a three-day Three Kings Celebration planned for Jan. 4-6. See the Disneyland website for more details, and make sure to grab a schedule at the gate when you visit the park, because showtimes change daily.
I hope you come back before then, but in case you don’t, Merry Early Christmas to you, courtesy of Disneyland Parks!
My family and I were guests of Disneyland Park for a day and one night. All opinions and magical experiences are my own.